A Penang government representative has provided a point-by-point refutation to the woman featured in an apparently anti-DAP video, titled "Penang, would you hear my story?" which has gone viral since last Thursday.
While many netizens dismissed the YouTube clip as a BN propaganda flop, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s information officer Zaidi Ahmad preferred to tackle the issues raised by the woman featured in the video.
Zaidi said the woman, who claims to be a Bersih supporter and single, claimed she worked as a senior executive, but cannot make ends meet as the cost of living in Penang is now the same as in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
"Really? How much do you earn? I guess the minimum must be about RM5,000 a month. Not enough? Where does your spending go to?" Zaidi asked, when contacted to comment about the video.
"Food so expensive in Penang? Same price as KL? Come on, lah! Let's go for char koay teow. They are the best and cheapest in Penang.
"Not to mention that the prawns are big and fresh, unlike those in KL, so tiny and frozen in ice," added the former Royal Malaysian Air Force pilot.
'Usual BN tactics'
Although 3.16-minute video bore no logo or producer's name, nor ask people to vote for BN, it appeared most prominently on the Friends of BN Facebook Page.
The woman in the video also claimed that the incomes of Penangites have not grown, but Zaidi said this is "BN's usual tactics to slander and make up stories" without giving references or official statistics to back their claims.
Zaidi said that according to the National Statistics Department, the RM1,800 median income of Penangites is much higher than the national median of RM1,703, while the average monthly income in the state is RM5,409, compared to the national average of RM5,228.
In terms of unemployment, he said Penang beat the national average of 3.5 percent by more than half, at 1.6 percent.
"Congratulations to the state government under Pakatan Harapan!" Zaidi added.
Other than these two issues, the woman in the video also claimed that house prices are "super high" at RM800,000 per unit, quit rent for Penangites is increasing every year, the price of water is due for a hike, and that she could not provide for her ageing mother.
She also claimed that the Penang government has marginalised Seberang Perai, illegal factories there are endangering people's lives, rubbish is strewn everywhere, and that hillslope developments are mushrooming, with land reclamation causing massive floods in Penang.
Proof of cheap homes
On the high cost of housing, Zaidi said the woman must have expensive taste to be asking for an RM800,000 house.
"If she is looking at a house by the sea with a private pool, then the figure is logical, but if you are looking for a decent home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with a car park, you can still get one on the island at below RM300,000," Zaidi said.
"If you are so desperate you can apply one of the PPR (People Housing Scheme) units, where the rent is only RM124 per month, and I can assure you that there are many more units available on the mainland," he added.
Zaidi was also shocked that the woman in the video claimed that quit rent increases every year in Penang, and demanded proof to back up her claim.
"Does anybody have the phone number of this lady so that I can get the proof from her?" he asked.
On the purported hike in water prices, Zaidi shot back: "Who told you that? MCA, Gerakan or Parti Cinta Malaysia? Please do not believe them.
"Go and check that Penang has the lowest water rate in the country. Only those who use too much water have to pay a surcharge, while families with eight members and above can get rebates," he reminded.
Benefits for locals
Zaidi was also sceptical of the claim from the senior executive that she could not provide for her mother.
He stressed that the Penang government could help her out of her situation, and provided a list of benefits that Penangites enjoy so far, which include aid for low-income households, university students, school students, senior citizens, disabled persons, newborns, hafiz (Quran reciters), fishermen, rickshaw riders, taxi drivers and more.
Zaidi also said that that the state government would be introducing more benefits in 2018, for working mothers and vocational students, as well as extending free bus routes.
"There is so much more help and assistance given by the state if you care to ask your assemblypersons or village development and security (JKKK) committee members," he noted.
The CM's information officer refuted the claim that the state government merely focuses on development on the island, as official statistics show that more funds are spent on the mainland, pointing to the proposed undersea tunnel project.
In "Penang, would you hear my story?" the woman complained that Penang was wasting hundreds of millions of ringgit on the undersea tunnel study and overpriced highways when the money could be used to help the people.
But Zaidi contended that millions of ringgit are already being spent to help the people, and that prudent financial management still enabled the state government doubling its coffers since it took over the administration of the state.
"Don't forget that we managed to maintain our position as the state with the lowest national debt of RM5 million. Compare that with Pahang, the highest debtor with a whopping RM3.1 billion!"
He also denied that big factories in Penang are closing down and investors are losing confidence, leading to workers losing their jobs.
"How can that be so when Penang is recognised as the state with the biggest foreign investment last year, and second to Sarawak in combined investment (local and foreign)?" Zaidi asked.
As for the mushrooming of illegal factories, Zaidi said the Penang government inherited these from the previous administration.
On land reclamation that caused more than 20 floods in 2017, the former pilot said such activities happen on a larger scale in other states, and they are not the main reason why floods happen.
The video made the claim that although the worst flood of 2017 hit Penang, the state government could only blame the federal government for not providing funds for flood mitigation projects.
"Yet, the federal government helped save Penang during the major flood," the woman in the video lamented.
Zaidi pointed to Penang giving out monetary compensation to victims, as much as RM400 for those affected by the Sept 15 floods, and RM700 for the Nov 4 floods, before noting that flood mitigation and disaster management are supposed to be the responsibility of the federal government
"Otherwise we should stop paying taxes to the federal government, including the much hated GST," he said, pointing out that Penang absorbs the consumption tax for certain services.
The woman also said she wished for the good old days, when there were big international brands operating in Penang, and more affordable homes.
Zaidi said Penang is now well-known among tourists, adding that the state beat Port Klang as a choice destination for super cruiser ships last year and that Qatar Airways is now flying into the state three times a week.
"All these are a boon to Penangites as it will create jobs and stimulate the economy," he stressed.
As for that claim that many Penangites are living in poverty, Zaidi said this is not because of Harapan, but because the BN federal government had been imposing the "cruel" GST, while its leaders allegedly siphoned off billions of ringgit in various mega scandals, such as 1MDB.
"So don't leave Penang. Stay and let's change the federal government to Pakatan Harapan, which will abolish the cruel GST and catch the robbers involved in the multi-billion ringgit scandals.
"Then life will be better for all Malaysians. Vote for Pakatan Harapan. That's my story."